9 September 2023
OVD-Info is a Moscow-based NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests and prosecutions in Russia. Each week OVD-Info publishes a bulletin with the latest news, which is translated here. To receive the mailing in Russian, visit here.
The anarchist Azat Miftakhov has been detained on his release from a penal colony; police conducted searches in several regions in connection with donations to the Anti-Corruption Foundation; and imprisoned municipal councillor Aleksei Gorinov has been placed in a punishment cell.
Azat Miftakhov was moved to a remand prison on new criminal charges. Miftakkhov was free for no more than five minutes – the young man was detained as he left the penal colony at the end of his sentence. Now the anarchist has been charged with justification of terrorism. Allegedly while watching a TV programme with other prisoners he expressed approval for the act of Mikhail Zhlobitsky, who blew himself up in the Arkhangelsk FSB headquarters. In January 2021, Miftakhov was sentenced to six years in a penal colony for breaking a window at the local United Russia offices, but his sentence was later reduced to five years and nine months.
- Why do I need to know this? The Russian authorities are now seeking to get rid of opposition figures in any way possible. They probably reason: ‘Who knows what Azat Miftakhov will do after his release? Maybe he will go abroad, or maybe he will try to organize a protest?’ And the best way seems to be to imprison such a ‘dangerous’ person again. Charging him with justification of terrorism is an excellent solution because a simple remark can send him back to prison for up to five years.
Searches have been conducted in several Russian regions because of donations made to the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK). In Nizhny Novgorod, law enforcement officers visited the homes of brothers Dmitry and Gleb Kalinychev; in Moscow they called on Ilya Startsev; in Irkutsk on Aleksei Kamkin; in Omsk on Anton Kovrik; and in Syktyvkar, probably on Vyacheslav Gertzberg. In Krasnoyarsk, Andrei Novokreshchenykh was detained, and his home was probably searched as well. Later, Startsev was remanded in custody, charged with financing extremist activities. Gleb Kalinychev was also remanded in custody, while Kovrik was taken to Tiumen for questioning.
- Why is this important? This is the first case known to OVD-Info of such massive searches in several regions simultaneously in cases of donations to the FBK. In August, Sergei Shiryaev from Moscow and Aleksei Konovalov from Magadan were each fined half a million roubles for donations to the FBK, and at the end of 2022, a criminal case was brought against Dissernet co-founder Andrei Zayakin for a thousand-rouble donation. How the authorities got to know about the donations is unknown. In the case of Zayakin, for example, information about his actions became known to law enforcement because of a breakdown of the payment system.
A former photographer of Navalny’s Moscow headquarters has told about harassment while on remand. According to Aleksander Strukov, one of his cellmates, an ex-Wagner mercenary, offered a package of cigarettes to other detainees if they would beat up the photographer. However, no one agreed to this. Earlier, six soldiers and mercenaries, accused of robbery, kidnapping, extortion and causing harm to health, were placed in Strukov’s cell. One of them took away the photographer’s copy of Prison Bulletin, an unofficial newspaper for political prisoners, and promised that its creators and editors ‘will go to jail for destabilization and anti-Russian activities.’ Strukov is being prosecuted for alleged incitement of terrorism and hatred on the Internet because of comments he posted.
- Why do I need to know this? Cellmates of political prisoners on remand are not always supportive of them, and often consider them ‘traitors.’ Prison officers often not only do not help to resolve conflict situations, but also fuel them. For example, Igor Paskar, a Volgograd resident convicted of attempted arson of an FSB building, faced such a problem. He has told how his cellmates beat him up in the remand prison because of his anti-war views.
Convicted municipal councillor Aleksei Gorinov has been placed in a punishment cell. Gorinov was sent to a punishment cell for six days for allegedly refusing to present himself for prophylactic registration. In July 2022, Gorinov was sentenced to seven years in a general regime colony for spreading ‘fake news’ about the Russian army using his position and motivated by hatred or hostility. Subsequently the sentence was reduced by one month on appeal. His prosecution was initiated for a statement the oppositionist politician made about the war against Ukraine at a meeting of the municipal Moscow district council on 15 March2022.
- Why is this important? In this newsletter, we often talk about how political prisoners are placed in a punishment cell. Such punishments are often used as a means to put pressure on the individuals concerned. The isolation and harsh conditions in the punishment cell can break a person. In addition, time in a punishment cell can have a negative impact on the health of the convicted person. In Gorinov’s case, whose health had already significantly deteriorated during his time spent on remand, this can be very dangerous.
What was August like? Aleksei Navalny was sentenced to 19 years in a special regime colony on charges of creating an extremist group. His associate Daniel Kholodny was sentenced to eight years in a general regime colony. In the run-up to the elections, the homes of participants in the independent election observer Golos were searched and the movement’s co-chair Grigory Melkonyants was remanded in custody as a suspect. Read the new chronicle of political prosecutionson our website in which we recount the key events of the past month!
Translated by Rights in Russia